Travellers' site 'can still be challenged'

Travellers' site 'can still be challenged'
By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

A TRAVELLERS’ site proposed for land close to the M62 at Birstall can still be challenged even though it forms part of Kirklees Council’s massive planning blueprint.

The parcel of land, off Bankwood Way and close to the Showcase Cinema, has been reserved for 20 caravan pitches.

But it has been widely criticised by residents as well as businesses on the nearby Junction 27 Retail Park, which currently earns Kirklees around £7.6m in rates every year.

A petition objecting to the plan was signed by more than 5,000 people in less than a week.

Now Jacqui Gedman, chief executive of Kirklees Council, has confirmed that the Local Plan only “earmarks” the land for traveller accommodation “but no development can take place until planning permission is granted”.

Ms Gedman was responding to a letter from Tracy Brabin, Labour MP for Batley and Spen.

She said the land was chosen from 36 site options, all of which were owned by the council.

Responding on social media, Ms Brabin wrote: “It is clear from the response that at this stage the land is only ‘earmarked’... and a full public consultation will take place before any final decision is made.

“This will give interested parties the opportunity to express their opinions formally, which will then be considered by the council as part of the decision-making process.”

Among the responses was one from Carole Wardley, who works at the retail park. She said the council had ignored previous objections by local people and businesses.

She wrote: “(The) reaction from people working there is ‘Not again, we have been through this already’. We are the highest contributors to Kirklees rates and we get the worst service from them.

“Policies like they have, and an unwillingness to listen to people who pay their wages and expenses, will do nothing but increase far right support in this area.”

Among those who have spoken out against the traveller site is Coun Mark Thompson (Con, Birstall & Birkenshaw), who warned that its proximity to the retail park contradicted the council’s support for business growth.

He also pointed out it was less than three miles from a traveller site at Kidacre Park in Hunslet.

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